Money Saving Tips

How to Save Money While Working Abroad

How to Save Money While Working Abroad
Written by Irina Vasilescu

“How can you afford it?” This is the question most commonly asked to those who frequently travel. Although travelling is a quite expensive endeavor, having the passion for it will lead you to find ways to financially support your trips. You can scrimp on other things so that you can spend most of your funds on your travelling adventures.

Better yet, you can support yourself by finding work abroad. This way, you can explore new places that you’ve never visited before while also having the means to support yourself while doing it. Here, we will be dishing out lots of tips on how you can save money while working abroad.

Working While Travelling: The Basics

Before counting down the ways on how you can save money while working abroad, let us first take a quick look at how you can actually find work overseas. It all depends on what your interests are along with your current skills set, and which country you see yourself working at. Let’s say that you wouldn’t mind eating Korean food every day.

Practically all Asian countries have programs for native English speakers who would like to work as ESL or English as Second Language teachers. Taking on this career path will allow you to explore other countries; give you the opportunity to travel and mingle with the locals; while allowing you to earn all at the same time.

Those who are interested in working in business hubs like Singapore, Shanghai or London may want to do so through their existing employers. Depending on your current position at work, there might be work-related opportunities for you to be transferred to a foreign country. You can also take the NGO or Non-Governmental Organization route and travel to different places while working for a cause. These NGOs are usually independently funded so you can do your share in pushing for a cause that you’re passionate about, while also grabbing that opportunity to travel.

If you don’t think that you have enough skills to work abroad just yet, studying a second language is a good option. Studying Arabic will expose you to job opportunities in the Middle East while those who already know a bit of Spanish can advance their language skills so that they can work in South or Central American countries.

Ways to Save Money While Working Abroad

After successfully securing work for yourself abroad, the next thing you need to do is settle down there. You need to have the proper mindset to live as the locals do so that you can easily adjust. Naturally, you also need to be careful about your own security and make sure that your loved ones back home know exactly where you will be working.

After finding a suitable place to live, you need to make sure that your finances are in order. The good news is that the cost of living outside the United States, except for Europe, is quite affordable so you should be able to stretch what you’re earning for your job. This is especially true if you will implement ways to save money while working abroad, which we will enumerate here.

What are the specific ways for you to save money while working abroad? Take a look at the following list:

Know what’s included in your benefits package as a worker in a foreign country

Before packing your bags, it pays to do a lot of research about the country you’re moving to, as well as the implications of your job position. If you’re an English teacher in a foreign country, there are many other teachers who you can get information from about their real-life experiences working in another country. Ask about what’s expected of you, how your performance will be measured, what the locals are like, etc.

 If you’re fulfilling another job position which was offered to you by your current employer, ask about the deliverables expected, the local resources that you will have, the cultural training you need to succeed in the assignment, etc. By knowing exactly what to expect, you would more or less have an idea about your chances of succeeding in the job.

The same thing holds true when it comes to the financial aspect of working abroad. Knowing what’s included in your benefits package in the first place will allow you to create a suitable budget for your living expenses. While working abroad, you naturally would want to save some of your salary as well for the future – so take that into consideration, too.

If you’re an ex-pat who found a job placement abroad, some of the items typically included in a benefits package are: living allowance; accommodation allowance; transportation allowance (car benefits); storage costs for your possessions back home; tax equalization; tax filing assistance; local mobile phone paid for by the company. If you see that the benefits are suitable enough for comfortable daily living in the country where you are considering working, you can adjust your budget accordingly.

Be aware of what the local tax laws are

If you’re a US resident, you are required to pay taxes on all worldwide income. This means that even if you are working and living in a foreign country, your income is still tax-liable. However, the percentages are generally favorable especially for ex-pats. You also have to pay foreign taxes against the income in the country you’re working at, so learn what the local tax laws are.

Save money on rent

If you’re an English teacher in a foreign country, you can ask fellow teachers about safe accommodation options. For other job positions which are initiated by a current employer, housing would usually be part of the benefits package. If it is not, make sure to make the necessary arrangements first prior to moving to the country. If you have temporary accommodations, always ask the locals, your fellow foreign workers or immediate superiors about your accommodation options.

Save money on food and drinks

In most Asian countries, food is generally cheap. If your stomach is made from quite stern stuff, you can even try local street food from time to time. However, in other regions like Europe, the cost of buying food and drinks is quite high – so you might have to rely on your own cooking skills to survive. Aside from cooking at home, you can also save money by not dining out frequently. If you must go out for drinks, look for local watering holes where there are happy hours so that you can grab a beer or two cheaply.

Save money on transportation options

If a car is not part of your benefits package for your job abroad, learn about the transportation options in the area. Would it be more convenient for you to drive your own car, or can you easily rely on public transport? If you must drive your own car, how much do you typically need to spend on gas? If you’ll work in a city like Dubai, having a car is a must. But you can save money on gas by carpooling with a fellow worker or a friend who lives near your apartment.

Bring some of your clothes, but not all

When you first move into the foreign country where you will be working, you would need to bring along some of your clothes. There’s no need for you to pay extra on baggage fees – simply know what the weight limit is so that you can pack your bags accordingly. Whatever else you need, you can always buy at your destination city.

There are many Asian and Middle Eastern countries which are actually known as shopping hubs, so you should not have any problems buying whatever else you would need during your stay. In order not to overspend, make a shopping list. Avoid using your credit cards, especially if you have a bank that charges you when the card is swiped overseas. If you are staying in the country for quite a while, it might be good idea to open an account with a local bank.

What about your way of communicating with everyone back home?

Thanks to the Internet, there’s really no need for anyone to spend thousands of dollars on astronomical phone bills to call people back home. You can easily use social networks, chat services, Skype and similar applications to communicate with your loved ones while you are working abroad. Of course, you need to have a local number – but these are very affordable and easily available at your local destination. It’s good to have a laptop or a tablet computer which you can use as well, so that you can easily send out messages as long as you have Internet connection where you’re staying.

The tips on how to save money while working abroad are pretty much the same as when you’re working elsewhere. As long as you are living below your means, you can resist the temptation to overspend. What’s important is that you can live comfortably without spending too much, while you are enjoying your experience of working abroad at the same time.

About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our money-saving and DIY expert and also the editor-in-chief as she's always on the lookout for the latest online deals.


  • These are really good helpful tips. Bringing too many clothes could also hurt with washing and storing. It’s always amazing to find out how little you can live on daily, especially in a temporary fashion.

  • I worked in Taiwan for six months last year, as an assignment through my company here in the states. I have to disagree with a couple of your points. I think you should bring whatever clothes you think you will need while you are overseas, because it can be difficult to do clothes shopping. This is especially true if you do not have the same build as the average person in the country you are in. I normally wear a size small in the U.S., but when I tried to buy extra shirts for work in Taiwan, I had to buy a size large, and they were still too short to tuck in properly (required by the local company we were working under) and the sleeves weren’t quite long enough. For women who normally wear a medium or a large in the U.S., they really didn’t have options if they didn’t speak the local language.

    I also disagree about not using credit cards. You need to do your research before you go, and get a card that won’t charge you foreign transaction fees or to change currency, but that isn’t difficult. I believe all Capital One cards have that benefit. Using credit cards reduces the need to take money out of ATMs as often, which can also be very expensive. I actually opened a checking account with a different bank before I left specifically so that I wouldn’t have foreign ATM fees, but you will still often pay fees that are charged by the bank owning the ATM even if your bank doesn’t charge them. You do need to inform all credit card companies and banks that you are travelling, so that you don’t get your card turned off due to suspicious activity.

  • I have a friend who is looking into teaching English in a foreign country. I’ll have to pass these tips along to her. They don’t cover everything, but they are really good guidelines. I think that everyone needs to do as much research as they can before they travel abroad. Thanks for the article.

  • The thing that I think is best about this article is the fact that you are able to save a lot of money on rent. There are a great number of options when it comes to accommodation living abroad, and it is vital that you know about each of them, otherwise you simply run the risk of wasting money on something that you don’t really have to pay for. Working abroad can be a great life experience, and also a good chance to save up some money, so it is definitely something that you should be thinking about if you have the chance. You may well find that your bank balance thanks you in the long term.

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